New Orleans --
“By the time we got into battle in World War II, the Regular was a rare creature and the Reserve became the Marine that you saw everywhere you went. Never has a fighting organization been more successful than the Marine Corps in World War II; therefore, the only conclusion you can reach is that the Reservist in World War II was of the highest quality attainable.”
- U.S. Marine Corps general officer commenting on the successful integration of Total Force during World War II
Marine Corps reservist and Medal of Honor recipient Douglas T. Jacobson embodied these words. During the height of World War II, Jacobson enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at the age of 17. After graduating recruit training he was assigned to the 23rd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, July of 1943. After achieving the rank of private first class he was then sent off to the Pacific theater, December 1943. As part of 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, he took part in the Marshalls, Marianas, and Iwo Jima campaigns. Jacobson presented the highest standard of valor in his actions on Iwo Jima, Feb. 26, 1945.
During the battle, Jacobson’s platoon assaulted heavily fortified Japanese defenses on Hill 382. The hill is the highest point north of Mt. Suribachi, it was 250 yards northeast of the east-west runway of Motoyama airfield number two. Named after its height in meters, the hill was once held as a radar station and was repurposed for field artillery and anti-tank positions.
Jacobson assumed the duties of an anti-tank missile gunner after the assigned one was killed moments before, he then took out a 20mm anti-aircraft gun and its crew. As his platoon viciously fought for the summit of Hill 382, Jacobson employed his newly acquired weapon accurately to destroy two machine gun positions that attempted to put a halt to the Marines’ advance.
As the platoon moved up, he then destroyed a reinforced defensive position and subsequently neutralized a five-man fortification with a satchel charge. In a relentless assault on the hill, he then destroyed an additional six positions preventing his platoon from advancing. Jacobson’s heroic actions enabled his platoon to occupy the strongpoint and capture Hill 382. By the end of the day, Jacobson destroyed 16 enemy positions and eliminated approximately 75 Japanese defenders.
When asked how he accomplished such an insurmountable task, he stated “I don’t know how I did it, I had one thing in mind, getting off that hill.”
For his actions in Iwo Jima, Jacobson was presented the Medal of Honor by then-President Harry S. Truman, Oct. 5, 1945, at the White House.
After spending some time as a civilian, Jacobson decided to reenlist in 1946. He was then ordered to attend Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. He served in both China and Vietnam. He retired as a Major in 1976 and moved to New Jersey and became a real estate agent. Later in life he moved to Florida where he passed away at the age of 74, Aug. 20, 2000.
While this may seem like a big feat for a reservist, it was in fact a normality for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve during WWII. Out of the 589,000 Marines to serve in WWII, 70% were reservists and 44 of the 82 Medal of Honor recipients were also in the Reserve. This is a reflection of the Marine Corps' core values. Whether one is active or reserve, when the nation calls upon the Marines in a time of need, they provide honor, courage, and commitment.